Early on a Saturday morning I am woken up by a call from a frantic tenant who says there is a strong smell of gas in her flat and both she and her flatmate are feeling dizzy. She is worried they've got carbon monoxide poisoning. Well, that gets me out of bed.
I tell her to turn off the gas supply, open all the windows and to call the gas supplier's emergency number. I am 99 per cent sure the flat is safe because I had the gas boiler checked only last week and the flat has a carbon monoxide alarm, which hasn't gone off. But I can't take any chances.
The tenant calls a little later to say the gasman is on his way, so as there isn't anything else I can do, I go shopping.
I'm in the middle of trying on shoes when she rings again, this time sounding super-stressed. She says the gasman wants me to call him "about a big problem". I thrust the shoes back in the box and dash out of the shop to speak to him. "What's wrong?" I gasp, jogging back to my car in the expectation that I will need to drive straight over to the flat.
There's a long sigh. "Your tenant," he says. "She's paranoid."
He says the tenant and her flatmate are still complaining of nausea and dizziness but he assures me there is no gas leak, and insists no carbon monoxide is seeping into the flat. He has checked the gas meter in the hallway and the boiler in the kitchen and both are safe and sound. He has spent over an hour in the flat and is suffering no ill-effects, he says.
I speak again to the tenant and suggest the noxious smell might be caused by something other than gas. I even tell her how I was once convinced I had a gas leak — until I discovered a rotting tangerine in an old gym bag, ha ha.
She isn't amused. "It's not a piece of fruit," she snaps. Feeling quite helpless I suggest she leaves the windows open and calls 111 if either of them starts to feel worse. I think maybe they have picked up a bug. She rings me again in the evening, just as I'm going out for dinner, to say she is feeling very sick and her flatmate has a headache, so they are going to A&E. I tell her I will ring her later to find out how they are. "You're not bringing your mobile to dinner are you?" asks my husband. "Of course not," I say, slipping it into my bag when he turns his back. With two tenants who are convinced they've got gas poisoning, obviously I am keeping my phone with me.
All through dinner I am itching to check my messages, but I have to wait until my husband goes off to the loo before I can sneak a look at my phone. There's a text: "All fine, no carbon monoxide poisoning, back home."
Next morning I go to check up on the girls and I am relieved to find them feeling fine — but there is a faint gassy smell in the kitchen. I'm as puzzled as they are, until I notice a bottle of acid drain cleaner on the worktop. "Have you used this recently?" I ask. They tell me that they put it down the sink a couple of days earlier. "And how long afterwards did you notice the smell?" I ask. "Ah…" they say.
We agree that we have probably found the source.
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